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Why a Bookmobile? Just like the bookmobiles of the past brought wonderful books to people in towns across America, this century's bookmobile will bring an entire digital library to their grandchildren. The Internet Archive's mission is to provide universal access to human knowledge, and given the advancement of digital storage and communications this goal is now achievable. Part of accomplishing that goal is to make sure that public domain books are available digitally. Another part is making sure people across the country have access to those works whether by reading on a screen, or more likely, to be printed back out again as a book.
So what is the Bookmobile? It is a mobile digital library capable of downloading public domain books from the Internet via satellite and printing them anytime, anywhere, for anyone. It will be traveling across the country from San Francisco to Washington D.C., stopping at schools, libraries and retirement homes; places where people understand the value of a book. After the bookmobile leaves, each library will understand what it would take to make print and bind public domain books for their patrons.
Why September 30, 2002? On October 9th the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Eldred v. Ashcroft, a landmark case that will decide how many books are part of the digital library the Bookmobile brings. The founding fathers decided that copyright protection should last for 14 years and then another 14 years if the author chose to renew. Over the last 200 years, this has been extended many times to where it is now life of the author plus 70 years. Each time this is extended, this decreases the number of books that enter the public domain. Without those books, there can be no digital bookmobile.
The public domain consists both of creative works, like books, whose copyright protection has expired and of other works that creators specifically dedicate to the public. Once a work enters the public domain, the public is free to use the work any way they wish, including making copies. The Bookmobile may only provide access to public domain works
Federally funded programs to digitize millions of public domain books and make available through every school, library, and retirement home are now underway. We are on our way towards putting the best our culture has to offer within reach of every person.
It is imperative that copyright law balance the important needs of creators to be paid for their work, with the ability of the public to access works through the public domain.
That means for 20 years, not one new book will enter the public domain. And this is just the most recent extension. Copyright has been extended 11 times in the last 40 years. See a bar graph. Since works have been repeatedly and retroactively kept under copyright control, the concept of a Public Domain must now be considered by the Supreme Court.
We hope that the bookmobile, and the millions of books that can be in it, will be a tangible way to understand what we are giving up by extending copyrights so drastically.
The Internet Archive submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court explaining that if Congress is allowed to keep on extending the copyright term, it will take works even longer to enter the public domain. This will stifle the vibrancy of digital libraries that depend on new technologies to distribute works to people the publishers tend to forget.
With mobile access to the public domain, a child can have Alice and Wonderland delivered right to their school or an elderly man can have any public domain book printed in 16- point type. Without the public domain, the bookmobile's virtual shelves are bare.
To fund this project, the Archive will be launching the Adopt-a-Book program. Through it, corporations, organizations, and individuals will adopt public domain books that will be scanned in and added to the archive. How about donating the complete works of Shakespeare or your child's favorite book? Once a book is entered into the archive, it will be accessible to anyone, anywhere, with access to the Internet.
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